Armageddon

Armageddon

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Energy and commitment matter as much as size. A leave-it-to-the-FX-geeks attitude makes for dead-in-the-sink characterisaton and nowhere-in-a-handcart storylines. Michael (Bad Boys, The Rock) Bay doesn't stick a lolly in his face and wait for Vanity Fair to call. He goes for the burn.

In the context of action pix writ large, Armageddon breaks a few rules. The script is witty, well, it's soppy and sentimental too, but that's expected when you're dealing with the big Bye Bye. Steve Buscemi and Owen Wilson (new guy to watch, plays Oscar) were encouraged to ad-lib. Having an indy, freak-like Buscemi (whose natural venue is a seedy night haunt on the evening the Mob find out a hundred grand's missing from the hooker's panty pouch) is more encouraging than filling with Hunk City's safe sex regulars. This is Deep Impact with dangly bits.

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Old Mother Earth is in line for smithereens. "An asteroid as big as Texas" (your starter for 10: "How BIG is Texas?") has locked on, which means it's travelling at whooosh-miles-an-hour towards your front porch and there's nothing anyone can do about it. A few galactic outriders hit NY as a wake-up call, obliterating bucket-loads of people and the usual landmarks. Eat ya scales off, Godzilla!

The brains at NASA - particularly co-ordinator general Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton, looking normal for once) - think "destroy the destroyer". Someone suggests a driller. Driller Killer? No. Harry ("He doesn't know how to fail") Stamper, aka Bruce Willis, whose particular talent is drilling for oil where no man drilled before, a sort of Red Adair of the down pipe.

Dan's plan is to send Stamper and his team in a couple of space shuttles round the moon to land on the hurtling mass of asterock, drill holes, lay nukes, retreat to a safe place and light the touch paper. Sounds crazy enough to succeed? You haven't seen the team. The Dirty Dozen looked ready to boogie. These bozos look wasted. "Talk about the wrong stuff," a wise guy cracks. That's another risk. Megabuck actioners have conventional crews - neat, trim, good looking Boy Scouts - not "a bunch of retards I wouldn't trust with a potato gun".

Liv Tyler plays Willis' daughter (not clever casting), who spends her time lip-suctioning Ben Affleck in pretty poses. Affleck (straightened out since his glory days in Chasing Amy) is A.J., a young buck on Stamper's team, who thinks he knows better. He's not a bighead, more in the movie star tradition of photogenic under pressure.

The love stuff is a pain, because it's sugar-coated and Tyler simply can't hack it as a girl who spent her childhood on rigs. The film goes for broke. No safety net. No apologies. Believing in itself. One serious complaint: slo-mo shots of the guys in NASA gear walking towards camera in line across the tarmac is a cliche too far.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Armageddon packshot
A drill team head to space to stop an asteroid destroying Earth.
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Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Jonathan Hensleigh, J.J. Abrams, Tony Gilroy, Shane Salerno

Starring: Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, William Fichtner, Owen Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan, Peter Stormare, Ken Hudson Campbell

Year: 1998

Runtime: 150 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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Deep Impact